Top 10 Most Underrated Health Foods

by | Mar 5, 2014

Photo by Michael Hodge

We already know that food manufacturers and the media tend to exaggerate the benefits of popular health foods, but what about all the wonderfully healthy foods they ignore?

It’s time to shine the spotlight on 10 of my favorite healthy foods that never get the attention they deserve.
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10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

by | Aug 1, 2012

Photo by basheertome

I pity the fool who puts health over pleasure every time they enter a restaurant, but if you eat out often all those French fries could get the better of you.

When nothing on the menu perfectly fits my preferences (particularly at low to mid-range places more tailored to the Standard American Diet crowd), I don’t hesitate to swap out whatever I don’t want with something better.

Whether it’s to avoid processed foods or simply add vibrance and color to my plate, here are 10 simple swaps to make the most of your restaurant meals.

10 Simple Substitutions to Make Restaurant Meals Healthier

1. Mixed greens instead of ice burg or romaine lettuce

I enjoy cobb salads, but for some reason they’re usually served with boring industrial lettuce. Most places these days carry mixed greens or spinach as well, and are usually happy to make the switch.

2. Fruit instead of toast

I’m not sure why breakfast spots think you need two giant pieces of toast on top of your potatoes, eggs and pancakes, but if you don’t want it they’ll often offer you fruit instead. This is one of the best upgrades you can get away with.

3. Salad instead of potatoes

Speaking of potatoes, while they are real food and have their place in a healthy diet, they’re so often fried in rancid industrial oils that it’s best to skip them. Swapping them out for salad or cooked greens is rarely a problem.

4. Avocado instead of mayo

Real mayonnaise, the kind made from egg yolks and olive oil is perfectly healthy (and delicious). Unfortunately that isn’t what most places are putting on your sandwich. Instead commercial mayos are typically made with soybean or canola oils, AKA hyper-processed industrial oils. It may cost a little extra, but avocado is a fantastic alternative to gooey up your lunch.

5. Cheese plate instead of dessert

One of the things I love about France is that it’s perfectly acceptable to have cheese after dinner instead of sugar. If everyone is ordering crème brûlée and you don’t want to be a party pooper, get the cheese plate instead. Good cheese is healthy.

6. Brown rice instead of white

I don’t mind white rice in small quantities, but if I’m stuck eating somewhere I know the food isn’t very healthy I swap out my white rice for brown (and order as many vegetables as possible) if the option is available.

7. Drink wine instead of cocktails

Dinner often starts with a drink selection. While wine certainly has calories, cocktails usually have hundreds more thanks to the liqueurs and syrups typically used. Mixed drinks have their place, but if you’ll also be eating  a few hundred calories then wine is a better choice.

8. Beans instead of rice

If I see beans or lentils anywhere on the menu I’ll often ask if the kitchen can use them instead of one of the faster digesting starches on my plate. Your waiter may be confused, but he’ll usually do it if you ask.

9. Olive oil and vinegar instead of sugary dressing

At some point in the past 20 years salad dressings started being made with ridiculous amounts of sugar and salt, probably to cover up the completely flavorless vegetables from the industrial food chain. Good ol’ fashioned olive oil and vinegar is a better choice, and most kitchens have them.

10. Anything instead of American cheese

Have you ever looked at the ingredients for American cheese? Besides water, the first ingredient is usually trans fat. The second is cornstarch. All the way at the bottom it says, “Contains: Milk.” Replacing it with real cheddar, gruyere, provolone, or even nothing would be healthier.

What are your favorite restaurant substitution tricks?

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For The Love Of Food

by | Nov 18, 2011

For The Love of Food

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Lots of talk this week about the pros and cons of local foods. Also, congress says pizza is a vegetable, heritage turkeys are the greatest thing since bacon and coffee/tea may reduce your risk of mercury exposure from fish.

Want to see all my favorite links? Be sure to follow me on on Digg. I also share links on Twitter (@summertomato), Google+ and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week


What inspired you this week?

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Probiotics & Fermented Foods – Episode 6 – Summer Tomato Live [video]

by | May 10, 2011

Thanks to those of you who participated in last week’s show on Probiotics & Fermented Foods, it was a great discussion. You can find the show notes below.

The next episode is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24 @ 6:30pm PST. We’ll be discussing Weight Loss Tips & Tricks. If you’d like to participate, sign up by this Friday, May 13, to receive the first month of Tomato Slice for free.

May 1, 2011 | What is the scientific evidence behind eating fermented foods or pre- and probiotics, and what are the best sources?

Tune in today at 1pm PST to join our live discussion about probiotics.

Live participation is only available to subscribers of the newsletter Tomato Slice. You can sign up at any time, even during the show, and the password for participation will be emailed to you immediately.

Click here to sign up and get the password

Read this for more information on the show and newsletter

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

Show notes:

In an attempt to answer Aisha’s question about whether sauerkraut (or kimchi) goes bad I’ve done a bit of reading and haven’t found much. Most evidence suggests that unopened and submerged in brine it is good almost indefinitely. However, once it is open I haven’t seen much evidence that it goes “bad,” but it might not be as pleasant.

Because it is fermented it is unlikely to experience much rot, so I would judge by color, smell and your own personal comfort level. Obviously anything with a physical growth or mold should be tossed.

If anyone else has any insight please share.

References:

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Dairy: Friend or Foe? – Episode #5 – Summer Tomato Live [video]

by | Apr 18, 2011

Thanks to those of you who participated in this episode on the role of dairy in health and weight loss. Show notes are below.

Please note that the date for the probiotics episode (#6) has changed to Monday, April 25 @ 6:30p PST (previously Tuesday, April 26).

April 11, 2011 | Does milk really protect against osteoporosis? Will too much calcium give you prostate cancer? Can you reduce acne if you stop eating dairy? What’s the deal with raw milk?

The answers may surprise you.

Tune in tonight at 6:30pm PST to join our live discussion about the pros and cons of dairy.

Live participation is only available to subscribers of the newsletter Tomato Slice. You can sign up at any time, even during the show, and the password for participation will be emailed to you immediately.

Click here to sign up and get the password

Read this for more information on the show and newsletter

To watch live and join the discussion click the red “Join event” button, login with Twitter or your Vokle account, and enter the password when prompted.

I encourage you to call in with video questions, particularly if your question is nuanced and may involve a back and forth discussion. Please use headphones to call in however, or the feedback from the show is unbearable.

Show notes:

There is a huge amount of politics surrounding this science, because of the powerful influence of dairy industries around the world. This makes data difficult to interpret. The following review and its rebuttal regarding the role of milk in type 1 diabetes is a perfect example of what I mean:

Dairy & type 1 diabetes

Dairy and osteoporosis

Dairy and acne

Dairy/calcium and heart disease

Dairy/calcium and prostate cancer

Dairy/calcium and colon cancer

Dairy & breast cancer

Dairy & weight loss (very tough to find studies not funded by dairy industry)

  • Moderate weight loss from dairy (but rarely from intervention studies w/o caloric restriction)
  • Possible mechanisms include:
    • Ca++
    • protein
    • conjugated lineoleic acid (CLA)
    • medium-chain fatty acids
  • My interpretation: dairy not likely to have big impact on body weight

Cheese protects against cancer and heart disease?

Extras

  • Processed ice cream contains beaver anal gland?
  • Wikipedia
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    For The Love of Food

    by | Apr 2, 2010

    For The Love of Food

    Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

    This week I learned that cheese is associated with lower cancer rates, and it wasn’t even an April Fools’ joke. I’m also cautiously optimistic about Kroger’s new food scoring system that actually calls out junk food for what it is. Oh oh oh! And I can’t wait to try the canned unicorn meat I’ve heard so much about.

    I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there. (Note: If you want a follow back on Twitter introduce yourself with an @ message).

    Links of the week

    What’s your good news?

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    For The Love of Food

    by | Aug 21, 2009
    For The Love of Food

    For The Love of Food

    Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

    The highlight this week (for me anyway) was the first Summer Tomato appearance over at my favorite blog, Lifehacker. Apparently they thought my tip on getting soft fruits and veggies home from the market without smashing them was pretty awesome. This week’s link love features a ton of cool food-related science tidbits, including a podcast from NPR’s Science Friday and a video “Baloney Detection Kit.”

    I read many more wonderful articles than I post here each week. If you’d like to see more or just don’t want to wait until Friday, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@summertomato) or the Summer Tomato Facebook fan page. For complete reading lists join me on the social bookmarking sites StumbleUpon and Delicious. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you there.

    I also invite you to submit your own best food and health articles for next week’s For The Love of Food, just drop me an email using the contact form. I am also accepting guest posts at Summer Tomato for any awesome healthstyle tips you’d like to share.

    This post is an open thread. Share your thoughts, writing (links welcome!) and delicious meals of the week in the comments below.

    For The Love of Food

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    10 Common Groceries I Never Buy

    by | Mar 7, 2009

    In general I would say I eat pretty normal food. Admittedly the fruits and vegetables I buy are extraordinary (thank you San Francisco), but they are still just plants that grow out of the dirt in California. I realized recently that what is truly unusual about my diet are the groceries I do not buy.

    10 Groceries I Never Buy

    (and why I think there are better things to spend my money on)

    1. Sliced bread. Sure my grandparents think it is the greatest invention of all time (literally), but I would argue that the fluffy loaves that come in plastic bags at the market can barely be considered food. Don’t believe me? Check the ingredients list. If you don’t fall asleep by the time you get to the bottom, try pronouncing some of those words in the middle. Exthoxylated…wuh?
    2. Fruit yogurts. It is generally accepted without question that yogurt is good for you. That may be the case for old-fashioned plain yogurt (though I am still not convinced), but I guarantee you those sugary yogurts that take up the bulk of the dairy case do not qualify as health food. 15 grams of sugar is my cut off before a food transitions to dessert. Look before you eat.
    3. Iceberg or romaine lettuce. Besides being colorless and flavorless, these boring greens add little (zero?) nutrition to your life. Instead I buy the colorful, loose spring mixes that come in bags, boxes or bulk bins at the grocery store and farmers market. If you prefer to stick with one kind of salad green at a time, try green or red leafed lettuce. Mix it up occasionally with cabbage or radicchio.
    4. Corn-fed beef. As I have explained before, I love beef (even though I don’t eat much of it). When I decide it is worth the indulgence, I go straight for the gourmet grass-fed kind. Why? Cows were never meant to eat corn (industrial cows have been bred to do it), and those that do are sicker and less nutritious than cows that are pastured. Moreover, the factories that process this sub-par beef are likely to be huge, unsanitary and foster E. Coli outbreaks. Thanks, but I’ll pass.
    5. Soda. There was a time in my life when I drank quarts of Diet Coke a day. But since I started focusing on my health I gave it up and never looked back. Even natural sodas add very little to your quality of life. And if they contain full sugar, your life may even be shortened. When I’m thirsty I drink water.
    6. Pancake or brownie mixes. I am not immune from the occasional pancake or brownie craving (and sometimes my friends demand these of me!). So if it is a special occasion, why bother with the boxed stuff? Both these goodies are easy to make from scratch and worth a little extra time in the kitchen to make them spectacular! Isn’t that what indulgence is all about?
    7. Winter tomatoes. Need I say more? There is no room in my life (usually) for an inadequate tomato. Canned tomatoes are a better option during the spring and winter.
    8. Juice. Even 100% fresh squeezed juice is dangerous for your blood sugar and insulin levels (not to mention your BMI). If I decide to try some, I consume less than 8 oz. You can probably guess what I think about the phony 10% juice products from concentrate (see point #5).
    9. Deli meats. On the surface these purportedly lean meats seem to be healthy. But under the surface they are packed with salts, sugars and nitrates. For a quick protein fix, try canned salmon (boneless, skinless), sardines or lox.
    10. Cheese that comes in plastic. Similar to beef, I indulge in cheese so infrequently that I prefer to go straight to Cowgirl Creamery for the good stuff! My recent favorite is called Midnight Moon.
    • What popular items don’t you buy?
    • Have any questions about other common items in your shopping cart?
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